We catch up with Chicano artist Ramon Ramirez at his home in East L.A. His work exudes a quiet depth, images of urbanity in Southern California featuring rich, often color saturated oil paintings with themes of nature (palm trees) and concrete (skyscrapers).
Here's our conversation:
ARBOL- Where did you grow up, what’s your heritage, and did your environment play a part in your artistic future?
RR- I grew up in East LA, California. I consider myself Chicano or Mexican American. I grew up indoors mostly with one TV. So imagination was a must. That's where I began to draw.
ARBOL- Who were you early influences?
RR- I didn't really have any early art influences. Nobody I knew was an artist. I didn't know that one can be an artist as a career. I think that's why I went to Architecture school and not art school for college.
ARBOL- Are you primarily a painter? Is the passion always there? At what age did you start?
RR- I consider myself a painter but I'm always drawing. Just keeping the skills sharp. Painting is sometimes slow. So I'll do warm up drawings and such. The passion, yes, it's always there. I have a backlog of paintings that I want to do. I'm afraid that if I live to the age of 90, I still won't have enough time to paint what I want to paint. I started drawing at an early age...5 years old, me thinks.
ARBOL- You also teach architecture? Or do you teach painting? Does that require you to switch gears?
RR- I used to teach architectural drawing and design at the college level but I'm just a painter now. It was all part of the creative process. I don't really think it was all too different. It was always about ideas. Tapping into to the creative current. But I don't teach anymore. I dedicate my time to my studio practice now.
ARBOL- When a student has obvious talent, do you see that right away, and do you try to foster that?
RR- It's a natural thing to gravitate towards talented students. A good instructor will try to foster creative energy in every student that is willing to try. There are some that just don't want to be there. But yeah, I see talent everywhere, even when students don't realize it for themselves.
ARBOL- Is L.A a good environment for your work, or irrelevant when it comes to your creativity?
RR- I’ve traveled a lot but have only lived in L.A. And really, L.A is my muse. I think all my paintings are based on L.A in some way or another. Yeah, L.A is a big part of my work. If I lived in a different city, I'm sure my work would be so much different.